The most advanced beach monitoring system in the world has been implemented along 30km of Gold Coast coastline to help manage the famous beaches, which attract more than 47 million locals and tourists each year.

The work is a collaboration between the University of New South Wales’ Water Research Laboratory and geospatial mapping specialists, Geoplex, who were engaged by the City of Gold Coast.

Actively managing the beaches against the increasing risks posed by storms, coastal erosion and climate change is a high priority for the City of Gold Coast and the wider community.

Bill Martin, Geoplex NSW Business Manager, said the project involved positioning 45 cameras along high-rise rooftops and lifeguard towers to provide images of the coastline, combined with image-based mapping of spatial data.

“The overall platform is the most sophisticated and large-scale coastal monitoring system in the world, serving up geo-referenced imagery of the beaches and other spatial data sets that directly help stakeholders to manage the beaches,” Mr Martin said.

“The development of an interactive web dashboard allows users to see the latest imagery and to interact with data records on maps and plots.

“This data is automatically analysed, in combination with other environmental conditions such as waves and tides, to provide real-time metrics on beach health and climate risks.”

Matt Blacka, Principal Coastal Engineer at UNSW and Project Manager, said the project takes the beach monitoring systems that have been used for the past 20 years to the next level.

“When our team started this new project, we really wanted to stretch the envelope and ultimately develop a product that was much more useable for council,” Mr Blacka said.

“This system improves the visualisation of remote beaches, improves accessibility and enables better use of the imagery and data products.

“We’re now able to look at a much broader range of data including beach user numbers and locations, wave breaking characteristics, beach safety and overall beach health. It’s no longer just about beach erosion and accretion.”

Previous black spots in the system are now covered and all sandy beach areas of the coast from the Tweed River Entrance to South Stradbroke Island can now be mapped.

The combined tourism and surfing industries are worth an estimated $7.5 billion annually to the Gold Coast’s economy, with this value underpinned by the city’s beaches.

UNSW’s Water Research Laboratory and Geoplex recently won the NSW Asia-Pacific Spatial Excellence Award (APSEA) in the Technical Excellence category for the project.

About Geoplex

Part of the Nova Group of Companies, Geoplex is a mapping and geographical information specialist, using cutting-edge geospatial technology and modern approaches to software development to deliver high-quality, innovative solutions.

Geoplex’s vision is to enable organisations to harness the power of geospatial information technology, to make our world safe and secure. The team of consultants and software engineers have a deep mix of operational and technical experience to transform businesses through the delivery of software and data solutions to support planning and operational decision making.

About the UNSW Water Research Laboratory

The Water Research Laboratory is part of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW and is a specialist fundamental and applied research organisation focusing on issues related to water. WRL tackles complex challenges in areas of coastal engineering, environmental and eco engineering, hydrology and water resources, hydraulics and groundwater. 

For over two decades, WRL has worked at the leading edge of coastal monitoring technologies in Australia. WRL’s team includes a blend of professional engineers and scientists undertaking commercial research for industry and government, and an academic team focused on blue-sky research and high-quality education.

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